United States has banned Russian energy imports, tightening the economic chokehold on Moscow, whose invasion of Ukraine has forced over two million people to flee the country in 13 days.

After years championing the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz pulled the plug late last month on the completed-but-not-yet-certified project.
After years championing the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz pulled the plug late last month on the completed-but-not-yet-certified project. (TRTWorld)

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

US: Russia's Nord Stream 2 pipeline is 'dead'

The controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline that was halted over Russia's invasion of Ukraine is "dead," a senior US official said, appearing to dash any hopes that the $12-billion gas venture could have a future.

"I think Nord Stream 2 is now dead," Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland told US lawmakers about the Kremlin's prize geopolitical energy project that became a victim of Western sanctions.

"It is a hunk of metal at the bottom of the sea, I don't think it will ever be revived," she added.

The comments, in a hearing assessing the US response to Russia's invasion, came on the same day President Joe Biden delivered a body blow to Moscow by announcing the United States was cutting off Russian energy imports.

The move marked a major tightening of the economic chokehold on President Vladimir Putin's Russia that has seen the country's currency crash, inflation and borrowing costs soar, and Moscow's access to global financial markets evaporate.

And "there is more on the way from the G7 or EU partners and countries around the world if President Putin does not end this vicious war," Nuland said.

"We're also working with our allies and partners to limit the disruption of global energy supplies and to prevent Russia from weaponising its global energy exports, while also accelerating diversification of energy supplies."

Russian warplanes hit residential areas in fresh strikes

Russian warplanes have carried new strikes on residential areas in the eastern and central parts of the country, Ukrainian authorities said. 

Ukrainian officials said that two people, including a seven-year-old child, were killed in the town of Chuhuiv just east of Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine. 

And in the city of Malyn in the Zhytomyr region west of the capital Kiev at least five people, including two children, were killed in a Russian air strike.

The Russian artillery has pounded the outskirts of Kiev, forcing civilians to hide in shelters while water, food and power supplies have been cut, said Yaroslav Moskalenko, an official who coordinates humanitarian efforts in the Kiev region.

He said that the shelling made it impossible to evacuate the bodies of five people who died when their vehicle was fired upon in Borodianka near Kiev and the bodies of 12 patients of a psychiatric hospital there. 

He said that another 200 patients were stuck there without food and medicines.

First civilians evacuated from Ukraine's Sumy city arrive at destination

The first convoy carrying civilians from the city of Sumy in northern Ukraine has arrived via a humanitarian corridor in the central city of Poltava, Ukraine's presidency said. 

"The first column of 22 buses has already arrived in Poltava," the president's deputy chief of staff Kyrylo Tymoshenko said on Telegram, hailing this as "good news."

He added that 1,100 foreign students would travel onwards by train to Lviv in Western Ukraine.

The second convoy of buses had already reached the Poltava region, the presidential administration said.

The humanitarian corridor was also used by drivers of civilian vehicles, he added.

Sumy, 350 kilometres east of Kiev, has experienced days of heavy fighting.

The Ukrainian authorities said that 21 people, including two children, were killed in air strikes in the besieged city on Monday.

"I am glad that the work of the evacuation team at this stage was completed successfully," Tymoshenko said.

Nearly 3,500 civilians were evacuated from Sumy under a temporary ceasefire that mostly held, said regional governor Dmytro Zhyvytsky in a televised interview.

Around 1,700 of the evacuees were foreign students studying at universities, Zhyvytsky said.

Evacuations also took place outside the capital Kiev. 

But attempted evacuations from the port town of Mariupol have failed on several occasions in recent days, with both Kiev and Moscow blaming the other side for the failures.

Moscow has announced a humanitarian ceasefire in Ukraine for Wednesday morning to carry out the evacuation of the civilian population, Russian news agencies reported. 

Russia announces humanitarian ceasefire for Wednesday 

Moscow has announced a humanitarian ceasefire in Ukraine for Wednesday morning to carry out the evacuation of the civilian population, Russian news agencies have reported.

"From 10:00 MSK (0700 GMT) on March 9, 2022, the Russian Federation is declaring a 'regime of silence' and is ready to provide humanitarian corridors," a cell of the Russian defence ministry charged with humanitarian operations in Ukraine said.

It added that Russia proposes to agree the routes and start time of the humanitarian corridors with Ukraine "before 03:00 MSK on March 9".

Civilian evacuations took place on Tuesday morning, in particular from the town of Sumy, where two convoys left during the day, and Kiev.

Effort to relieve encircled Ukrainian port put in jeopardy

An attempt to evacuate civilians from the besieged port of Mariupol has been thrown into jeopardy by continued fighting as conditions grow more desperate inside the city of 430,000.

As Ukraine pleaded for more warplanes, Poland said it would give all of its MiG-29 fighter jets to the US, apparently agreeing to an arrangement that would allow them to be used by Ukraine’s military. Ukrainian pilots are trained to fly Soviet-era fighter jets.

Ukrainian officials said renewed Russian shelling and other risks endangered the effort to relieve an encircled Mariupol, where many were forced to get their water from streams or by melting snow. Hungry residents also broke into stores for food.

Evacuations from Mariupol have failed on several occasions in recent days with both Ukraine and Russia blaming each other.

BBC to resume English-language reporting from Russia

The BBC has announced it is resuming English-language broadcasting from Russia, after suspending reporting as it examined tough new media laws.

The broadcaster last Friday halted its journalists' work in Russia after lawmakers moved to impose lengthy jail terms for publishing "fake news" about the army, as part of efforts to muffle dissent over Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

But in a new statement, the corporation said it had "considered the new legislation alongside the urgent need to report from inside Russia".

Do more to help, Ukraine's Zelenskyy tells Britain

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, invoking the wartime defiance of British prime minister Winston Churchill, has vowed to "fight to the end" in a virtual speech to UK lawmakers.

Addressing Britain's parliament and greeted by a standing ovation, Zelenskyy documented the Russian invasion day by day, listing the weapons used, the civilians killed and those running out of food and water.

"We will not give up and we will not lose. We will fight to the end at the sea, in the air, we will continue fighting for our land, whatever the cost. We will fight in the forests, in the fields, on the shores, in the streets."

He said Britain and other Western countries had to go further, pressing on with more sanctions. He also asked them to recognise Russia as a "terrorist state". 

"The question for us now is, to be or not to be," Zelenskyy said via video link. "Now I can give you a definitive answer: it is yes, to be."

CIA boss: China 'unsettled' by Russia's war in Ukraine

The CIA's director has said he believes China's leader Xi Jinping has been "unsettled" by Russia's difficulties in Ukraine, and by how the war has brought the United States and Europe closer.

"I think President Xi and the Chinese leadership are a little bit unsettled by what they're seeing in Ukraine," Central Intelligence Agency boss William Burns told US lawmakers.

"They did not anticipate the significant difficulties the Russians were going to run into," Burns said during a hearing on global threat assessments.

Ukraine says no longer insisting on NATO membership

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said he is no longer pressing for NATO membership for Ukraine, a delicate issue that was one of Russia's stated reasons for invading its pro-Western neighbour.

In another apparent nod aimed at placating Moscow, Zelenskyy said he was open to "compromise" on the status of two breakaway pro-Russian territories that Moscow recognised as independent.

"I have cooled down regarding this question a long time ago after we understood that...NATO is not prepared to accept Ukraine," Zelenskyy said in an interview aired Monday night on ABC News.

"The alliance is afraid of controversial things, and confrontation with Russia," the president added.

Russia sees NATO enlargement as a threat, as it does the military posture of these new Western allies on its doorstep.

Biden bans Russia oil imports

US President Joe Biden has banned Russian oil and other energy imports in retaliation for the invasion of Ukraine. 

He underscored strong bipartisan support for a move that he acknowledged would drive up US energy prices.

"That means Russian oil will no longer be acceptable in US ports and the American people will deal another powerful blow to (Russian President Vladimir) Putin's war machine," Biden told reporters at the White House. 

Biden voiced America's support for the Ukrainian people, and predicted their ultimate victory.

"Russia may continue to grind out its advance at a horrible price, but this much is already clear: Ukraine will never be a victory for Putin. Putin may be able to take a city, but he'll never be able to hold the country," he said.

UK to phase out Russian oil imports by end of 2022

Britain has said it will phase out Russian oil imports by the end of this year, in line with new sanctions announced by the United States following the invasion of Ukraine.

"This transition will give the market, businesses and supply chains more than enough time to replace Russian imports -– which make up 8.0 percent of UK demand," Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng tweeted.

The oil sanction does not apply to Russian natural gas, which accounts for some four percent of UK supply. But Kwarteng said he was "exploring options to end this altogether".

Ukraine will service debt on time and in full

Ukraine says it will service its debt on time and in full, bolstered by financing from allies and international institutions who have rushed to Kiev's aid since the Russian invasion.

"We continue honouring our debt even in these extraordinary conditions," the finance ministry has told Reuters in a written comment.

Ukraine paid almost $698 million of its external obligations in the first two months of the year and faces a further $3.7 billion in March-December, including peaks of $499 million in May and $1.73 billion in September.

The ministry said Ukraine has access both to concessional and commercial financing. 

At least 27 killed in Kharkiv in past day: police

At least 27 civilians have been killed in attacks by Russian forces on the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv in the past 24 hours, Ukrainian regional police official Serhiy Bolvinov said on Tuesday.

Overall, 170 have been killed across Kharkiv region since the start of Russia's invasion on Feb. 24, including five children, he said in an online post.

McDonald's to temporarily close restaurants in Russia

McDonald's Corp has said it will temporarily close its restaurants in Russia, becoming the latest Western company to pause all operations in the country following its invasion of Ukraine.

The fast-food chain said it would continue to pay salaries to its 62,000 employees in Russia.

Major global brands, including McDonald's and PepsiCo Inc, have been pressured to pause their operations in Russia by several bodies, including New York state's pension fund.

Russia lodges appeal against FIFA, UEFA bans

The Football Union of Russia has lodged appeals against the suspension of Russian national teams and clubs from all FIFA and UEFA competitions, sport's top court has said.

The FUR is asking the Court of Arbitration for Sport for a stay of execution for the suspensions, to allow Russia to play in a 2022 World Cup playoff against Poland at the end of this month.

Russia: Kiev declined to endorse evacuation routes

Moscow has said Ukrainian authorities endorsed only one civilian evacuation route from areas affected by fighting out of 10 that were proposed, including five towards territory controlled by Kiev, the Interfax news agency has reported.

The Russian defence ministry said 723 people had been evacuated through the Sumy-Poltava corridor, including 576 Indian nationals, in a first convoy.

Ukraine said on Monday that a Russian proposal on humanitarian corridors was "completely immoral" after Moscow suggested it would allow people to flee Ukrainian cities towards only Belarus or Russia.

Two million Ukraine refugees reach EU, 'millions more to come'

The European Union has taken in two million refugees fleeing Russia's invasion of Ukraine and millions more will follow, the bloc's top migration official has said.

Russia's invasion has put to flight hundreds of thousands in the country of 44 million people.

"This will not be over soon. (Russian President Vladimir)Putin is fighting his war without remorse, restraint or mercy," EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson told the European Parliament.

"More is to come. Worse is to come. Millions more will flee and we must welcome them."

US spy chief: Putin may escalate despite setbacks in Ukraine

US Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines has said Russian President Vladimir Putin is unlikely to be deterred and may escalate the assault on Ukraine, despite setbacks in Ukraine and economic hardships resulting from international sanctions.

"Our analysts assess that Putin is unlikely to be deterred by such setbacks and instead may escalate," she told a House of Representatives hearing on global threats.

Meanwhile, the US Defence Department has told lawmakers it estimates between 2,000 and 4,000 Russian soldiers have been killed in  Ukraine.

Three killed, 3 children wounded by mine north of Kiev

Three adults were killed and three children wounded when an anti-personnel mine exploded under their car on a road in the Chernigiv region north of Kiev, Ukraine's ombudsman has said.

The adults died on the spot while the children were taken to nearby hospitals with injuries of varying severity.

It is believed to be the first time during the current fighting that civilians have been killed by a mine, ombudsman Lyudmyla Denisova told AFP.

The mines were placed by Russian troops, she added.

EU plans two-thirds cut in Russian gas imports this year

The EU wants to vastly reduce Russian gas imports this year. The European Commission, the EU's executive arm, will announce the goal later on Tuesday.

The bloc's 27 member nations have stepped back from implementing a ban on Russian energy imports in the face of worries that the economic consequences would be too severe.

Instead, the commission said it could erase a huge share of its dependency on Russia supplies, ramping up reserves for next winter and accelerating efforts to be more energy efficient.

According to widely reported leaks of the plans, the EU executive would pledge to reduce gas dependency by two-thirds by the end of this year and make the EU fully independent of Russian gas, oil and coal by 2030.

Germany calls on OPEC to increase oil output

German Economy Minister Robert Habeck has issued an "urgent appeal" to OPEC oil producers to ramp up output following a spike in prices and supply fears due to the Ukraine crisis.

Habeck called on top oil producing nations to "increase production in order to create relief on the market".

"That would be a contribution" to easing the stress on firms and households, he said at a Berlin press conference, adding that it was "an urgent appeal" to OPEC.

Spain opens probe of Russian actions in Ukraine

The Spanish public prosecutor’s office has said it has opened a probe into possible "serious violations of international humanitarian law by Russia in Ukraine".

The aim is to "determine the criminal nature" of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the office said in a statement, just hours after Germany's federal prosecutors opened a probe into suspected war crimes by Russian troops.

Brazil 'won't take sides' over Russia's invasion

Brazil will not take sides over Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Foreign Minister Carlos Franca has said, adding its stance was one of "impartiality", not "indifference", and that it sought peace.

"Brazil's position is clear...We are on the side of world peace," Franca told a news conference in Lisbon. "We think we can reach that (peace)... by helping to find a way out (of the war), not by taking sides."

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who visited Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow shortly before the invasion, angered Western allies by saying he was "in solidarity with Russia" without elaborating.

Mayor: Ukrainian girl dies of thirst under rubble of home

A six-year-old girl has died from dehydration under the rubble of her destroyed home in the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol, the city council has said.

It is not known how long the girl, named only as Tanya, had been under the ruins of her home before she died, but her mother was found dead at the scene.

"In the last minutes of her life she was alone, exhausted, frightened and terribly thirsty. This is just one of the many stories of Mariupol, which has been surviving a blockade for eight days," Mayor Vadym Boychenko said on the city's Telegram channel.

Moscow summons Irish envoy after truck incident

Russia has called in the Irish ambassador to demand an apology and lodge a formal complaint, the foreign ministry has said, after a man drove a lorry through the gates of Russia's embassy to Dublin to protest against Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

The Russian ministry accused protesters near its embassy of "essentially adopting tactics widely used by terrorists", demanded Ireland compensate Moscow for damage, and said it wanted those responsible for the incident punished.

Governor: Temporary ceasefire mostly hold in Sumy

A temporary ceasefire has mostly held around Sumy, allowing civilians, including around 1,000 foreign students, to be evacuated through a safe corridor, the regional governor has said.

Convoys of 20-30 private cars were leaving in waves, Governor Dmytro Zhyvytsky said in televised comments.

Moscow has announced a ceasefire in the five worst-hit cities: Chernihiv, Mariupol, Kharkiv, Kiev and Sumy.

Ukraine: Russia violating Mariupol evacuation corridor

Ukraine has accused Russia of violating a humanitarian corridor aimed at enabling civilians to leave the southern port city of Mariupol.

"The enemy has launched an attack heading exactly at the humanitarian corridor," the defence ministry said on Facebook.

It added that the Russian army did not let children, women and elderly people leave the city. "Such actions are nothing other than a genocide." 

Attempted evacuations involving some 300,000 civilians from Mariupol have failed on several occasions in recent days, with both Kiev and Moscow blaming the other side for the failures.

Ukraine: 400 civilian deaths recorded

Ukrainian Defence Minister has released new estimates of casualties and damage, saying Russian military actions have killed 38 children and wounded more than 70.

Overall at least 400 civilian deaths have been recorded and 800 wounded, though “these data are definitely incomplete,” Oleksiy Reznikov said in a video address. 

He said Russian strikes have destroyed more than 200 Ukrainian schools, 34 hospitals and 1,500 residential buildings.

He estimated some 10,000 foreign students, notably from India, China and the Persian Gulf are trapped by the fighting, and described attacks on British and Swiss journalists.

NATO: War must not escalate beyond Ukraine

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said there are credible reports that Russia is targeting civilians and urged Moscow to end the conflict, while also vowing not to let it spread.

"We have a responsibility to ensure the conflict does not escalate and spread beyond Ukraine," Stoltenberg said. "We will protect and defend every inch of all allied territory," he added.

Speaking alongside Latvia's President Egils Levits, Stoltenberg said Russia's invasion was causing horrific suffering and that the humanitarian impact was devastating.

UN rights chief decries Russian protest arrests

The UN human rights chief has decried Russia's arrest of nearly 13,000 people for peaceful protests and warned all criticism of public policies was "profoundly restricted" in the country.

Speaking to the UN Human Rights Council, Michelle Bachelet said that since Moscow launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, "some 12,700 people have been arbitrarily arrested for holding peaceful, anti-war protests" inside Russia.

"The space for discussion or criticism of public policies, including its military action against Ukraine, is increasingly and profoundly restricted" in the country, she said. "Media are being required to use only official information and terms."

EU pledges to fight Russia's "information war" in Europe

European Union officials have defended the bloc's decision to ban Russian state-controlled media from broadcasting in the region as decisive steps to check a Kremlin-led “information war".

Speaking at the European Parliament during a debate on foreign interference and disinformation, the EU's top diplomat Josep Borrell brushed off critics who say the EU is threatening freedom of information with the ban on Sputnik and RT/Russia Today.

Borrell said Moscow-controlled outlets are part of a well-oiled propaganda machine providing biased news about Vladimir Putin's true intentions.

German prosecutor's office looks into 'war crimes'

The German federal prosecutor’s office is looking into possible war crimes committed by Russian forces in Ukraine.

The prosecutor’s office said it has launched a so-called “structural investigation" — a preliminary probe against persons unknown which entails looking for evidence leading to possible suspects who could be prosecuted.

It’s unclear whether or when a prosecution of any suspect would actually be launched and what the chances are of any defendant eventually being brought to court in Germany.

UK: Visa centre for Ukrainians being set up in France

The UK government has said it is setting up a visa centre for Ukrainian refugees in northern France, after confusion and anger that some were being turned away.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss told parliament a "pop-up" site would be located in Lille, some 70 miles (110 kilometres) from Calais where scores of Ukrainians have flocked.

Disappointed Ukrainians arriving in the Channel port city this week in the hope of getting to the UK have instead been told to go to Paris or Brussels to apply.

Adidas latest to close Russia stores

German sportswear group Adidas is temporarily closing its stores in Russia and shut its online shop, joining a growing list of companies suspending their activities there.

Adidas said in a statement late on Monday that it would "suspend the operations of our stores and our e-commerce site in Russia until further notice" but continue to pay its employees.

The outfitter previously suspended its partnership, going back to 2008, with the Russian Football Union following the invasion.

Lavrov sets out stance to Vatican counterpart in call

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has set out Moscow's position to Vatican State Secretary Pietro Parolin in a call, the Russian foreign ministry has said in a statement.

In connection with the concern expressed by Parolin about the situation, Lavrov "outlined the principled Russian position regarding the causes and goals of the special military operation being carried out in Ukraine", the ministry said.

Both parties expressed hope that a fourth round of talks between Moscow and Kiev would be held as soon as possible to "seek agreement on the key problems underlying the crisis in order to resolve it and stop hostilities", the ministry added.

PM: Bulgaria can't afford a ban on Russian energy

Bulgaria cannot afford to back a ban on Russian oil and gas imports as part of sanctions against Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine, Prime Minister Kiril Petkov has said.

Sofia receives 77 percent of its natural gas from Russia's Gazprom and its sole oil refinery — the largest on the Balkans — is owned by Russia's Lukoil.

"We fully back the existing sanctions (against Russia). We work with the EU (to ensure) that these sanctions have maximum power, but a thing that we cannot afford is to stop the import of oil and the import of gas," Petkov told journalists.

More than 2M have fled Ukraine war as refugees: UN

More than two million people have fled Ukraine since Russia launched its full-scale invasion less than two weeks ago.

A total of  2,011,312 people have fled the war-ravaged country into neighbouring countries since February 24, with Poland alone taking in 1.2 million, the UN refugee agency said.

China's Xi urges 'maximum restraint' over Ukraine

Chinese President Xi Jinping has urged "maximum restraint" over Ukraine, calling the crisis "deeply worrying" in a video summit with his French and German counterparts Emmanuel Macron and Olaf Scholz.

Beijing has refused to condemn the invasion of Ukraine by its close partner Russia, and Xi said he wanted "the two sides to maintain the momentum of negotiations, overcome difficulties and continue the talks to achieve results.... and prevent a large-scale humanitarian crisis", according to state broadcaster CCTV.

Shell will stop buying Russian oil, natural gas

Energy giant Shell has said that it will stop buying Russian oil and natural gas and shut down its service stations, aviation fuels and other operations in the country amid international pressure for companies to sever ties over the invasion of Ukraine.

The company said in a statement that it would withdraw from all Russian hydrocarbons, including crude oil, petroleum products, natural gas and liquefied natural gas, “in a phased manner.”

Zelenskyy denounces unkept 'promises' by West

President Volodymyr Zelensky has denounced what he called unkept "promises" by the West to protect Ukraine from Russian attacks.

"It's been 13 days we've been hearing promises, 13 days we've been told we'll be helped in the air, that there will be planes, that they will be delivered to us," Zelenskyy said on a video broadcast on Telegram.

"But the responsibility for that rests also on those who were not capable to take a decision in the West for 13 days," Zelenskyy added.

21 killed in air strikes on Ukraine's Sumy: official

Twenty-one people, including two children, were killed in air strikes on the besieged northeast Ukrainian city of Sumy, the authorities have said.

"The bodies of 21 people, including two children" were found at the site of Monday's strikes, the regional public prosecutor said on Facebook. A previous toll given by the emergency services was nine dead.

Ukrainian leader to address British parliament

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will address British lawmakers via videolink in the House of Commons, the first time a president of another country addresses the main Westminster chamber.

He will address the chamber at 1700 GMT when formal parliamentary business will be suspended.

Navalny urges Russians to keep protesting war

Jailed Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny has urged Russians to continue protesting against Moscow's invasion of Ukraine, days after thousands of protesters were arrested at anti-war rallies nationwide.

Navalny, who is serving a two-and-a-half-year jail term on fraud charges that his allies say are politically motivated, wrote on Twitter that anger was growing at home against the conflict.

He cited a survey carried out by aides and said protests were putting additional pressure on the Kremlin, which he said was "desperate" to end the war "as soon as possible".

Japan slaps more sanctions on Russians

Japan says it has suspended the assets of 32 more Russian and Belarusian individuals as part of international sanctions against Russia.

The additional sanctions announced target 20 Russians including head of the Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov, deputy chiefs of staff and a press secretary for President Vladamir Putin’s govenment, and deputy chairmen of the state parliament. 

The list also includes business executives with close ties to Putin and his administration such as Volga Group, Transneft, the Private Military Company Wagner and USM Holdings, according to a statement jointly issued by the foreign, finance and trade ministries.

Ukraine claims over 12,000 Russian soldiers killed in war

Ukraine has claimed that over 12,000 Russian soldiers have been killed since Russia attacked its neighbour on February 24.

According to the Ukrainian General Staff, 48 Russian aircraft, 80 helicopters, 303 tanks, 1,036 armored vehicles, 120 cannons, 56 rocket launcher systems and 27 air defense systems were also destroyed.

Dutch internet providers block six Russian media websites

Dutch internet providers have blocked six Russian media websites as part of EU sanctions resulting from the invasion of Ukraine, national news agency ANP has reported.

Websites Sputnik and RT were among the sites blocked, ANP reported.

Temporary ceasefire for evacuation of civilians begins

A temporary cease-fire between the forces of Moscow and Kiev has been declared to evacuate civilians from five major cities in Ukraine including the capital.

According to the Russian Defence Ministry, the partial truce took effect in Kiev, Kharkiv, Chernigiv, Sumy and Mariupol as of 0700 GMT (10AM Moscow time).

Civilians will start leaving the besieged Ukrainian city of Sumy under an agreement with Russia on the establishment of a "humanitarian corridor", Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said.

Gazprom continues gas shipments via Ukraine at same level

Russian natural gas company Gazprom continued gas shipments via Ukraine at the same volume of 109.5 million cubic metres a day, the RIA Novosti news agency has reported.

At least nine dead in bombing of Ukraine city Sumy

At least nine people, including two children, have died in an air strike on the Ukrainian city of Sumy, some 350 kilometres east of Kiev, the rescue services have said.

"Enemy planes insidiously attacked apartment buildings" on Monday night, the rescue services said on Telegram after arriving on the scene at 11PM. Sumy, near the Russian border, has been the scene of heavy fighting for days.

UK's Wallace says Putin is a spent force in the world

Russia's President Vladimir Putin is a spent force in the world whatever happens in Ukraine, British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has said.

"Whatever ... happens, President Putin is a spent force in the world and he is done, his army is done ... and he needs to recognise that," Wallace told Times Radio. 

"The international community has united against him … he is in a position where he is going to cause huge economic hardship to his people."

Ukraine says aircraft bombed cities overnight

Russian aircraft has bombed cities in eastern and central Ukraine overnight, Ukrainian officials said. Shelling pounded suburbs of the capital, Kiev.

In Sumy and Okhtyrka, to the east of Kiev near the Russian border, bombs fell on residential buildings and destroyed a power plant, regional leader Dmytro Zhivitsky said. He said there were dead and wounded but gave no figures.

Bombs also hit oil depots in Zhytomyr and the neighboring town of Cherniakhiv, located west of Kiev. In Bucha, a Kiev suburb, the mayor reported heavy artillery fire. “We can’t even gather up the bodies because the shelling from heavy weapons doesn’t stop day or night,” Mayor Anatol Fedoruk said. 

Türkiye evacuates over 12,300 citizens from Ukraine

Türkiye has evacuated 12,306 citizens from Ukraine since Russia launched a war on its neighbor, the Turkish foreign minister has said.

Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Twitter that 372 additional citizens set off from Ukraine. He said 20 are coming to Türkiye from Kiev via train, while the remaining 352 arrived by bus from Kiev, Odessa, Lviv, Dnipro, Zaporizhzhia and Chernivtsi.

"Works for the safe evacuation of our citizens continue," he added.

IAEA reports second Ukraine nuclear facility damaged

The International Atomic Energy Agency has said it has received reports of artillery shells damaging a nuclear research facility in Ukraine's besieged second city Kharkiv, but there was no "radiological consequence".

The Vienna-based UN body said Ukrainian authorities reported an attack took place on Sunday, adding that no increase in radiation levels had been reported at the site.

Because the site's "inventory of radioactive material is very low" and kept at a "subcritical" state, the IAEA said "the damage reported to it would not have had any radiological consequence."

World Bank approves extra $489M support package for Ukraine

The World Bank has approved an additional $489-million package in support for Ukraine, to be made available immediately and dubbed "Financing of Recovery from Economic Emergency in Ukraine," or "FREE Ukraine."

On March 1, the Washington-based institution announced it was preparing emergency aid worth $3 billion for Ukraine, of which at least $350 million were to be released immediately.

"The package approved by the Board consists of a supplemental loan for $350 million and guarantees in the amount of $139 million," it said in a statement.

Nissan plans to halt production in Russia

Japanese automaker Nissan has been planning to halt production at its plant in Russia because of “logistical challenges.”

Nissan Motor Company did not provide a specific date but said production will stop “soon.” Its plant in St. Petersburg produced 45,000 vehicles last year, including the X-Trail sport utility vehicle.

The Yokohama-based manufacturer said the safety of its employees is its top priority. Nissan earlier stopped exports to Russia.

Germany to host G7 meeting on war's impact on food security

Germany will host a virtual meeting of agricultural ministers from G7 countries on Friday to discuss the impact of Russia's invasion of Ukraine on global food security and how to best stabilise food markets, the government said.

"The provision of foodstuffs in Germany and the European Union is safe but greater shortages can be expected in some countries outside the EU - especially where scarcity already reigns today due to issues like drought," German Agriculture Minister Cem Oezdemir said in statement.

"Price hikes for agricultural products cannot be excluded in industrialised nations either." Germany holds the rotating presidency of the Group of Seven most advanced economies this year.

Ukraine: Russian general Vitaly Gerasimov killed

A Russian general has been killed in the fighting around Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city, which Russian forces have been trying to seize since the invasion began, the Ukrainian military intelligence agency said.

It identified him as Major General Vitaly Gerasimov, 45, and said he had fought with Russian forces in Syria and Chechnya and had taken part in the seizure of Crimea in 2014.

It was not possible to confirm the death independently. Russia has not commented.

Another Russian general was killed earlier in the fighting. A local officers' organisation in Russia confirmed the death in Ukraine of Major General Andrei Sukhovetsky, the commanding general of the Russian 7th Airborne Division.

Sukhovetsky also took part in Russia's military campaign in Syria.

Ukrainian FM: Will propose direct talks between Putin, Zelenskyy

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has said when he meets with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Türkiye on Thursday he will propose direct talks between the Ukrainian and Russian presidents.

"We want talks between the president of Ukraine and Vladimir Putin since he is the one who makes the final decisions," Kuleba said early on Tuesday on Ukrainian television.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy often proposed direct talks with Putin in the runup to the war and said he called the Kremlin on the eve of the Russian invasion but got no reply. Putin has agreed to speak only with Western leaders.

Kuleba spoke after a conversation with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

"Grateful to the US for standing by Ukraine," Kuleba said on Twitter. 

"We are coordinating intensively on crucial further steps to increase pressure on Russia."

We want talks between the president of Ukraine and Vladimir Putin since he is the one who makes the final decisions

Ukrainian FM Dmytro Kuleba

Nebenzia: Russia to carry out ceasefire in several Ukrainian cities

Russia’s UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia has said Russia will carry out a ceasefire on Tuesday morning at 10 am Moscow time and open humanitarian corridors to evacuate citizens from Kiev, Chernigov, Sumy and Mariupol.

He took the floor at the end of a UN Security Council meeting on the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine on Monday to make the announcement.

"This proposal doesn't have any demands about the citizens being sent necessarily to Russia, into Russian territory," he said.

"There's also evacuation offered towards Ukrainian cities to the west of Kiev, and ultimately it will be the choice of the people themselves where they want to be evacuated to," Nebenzia said.

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies